South Africa’s Hidden Species
In October 2008, Drs. Michelle Hamer and Rob Slotow hosted nine members of the Wildlands Conservation Trust Green Team on their scientific field research project, South Africa’s Hidden Species. The project looks at invertebrate communities in the different habitats of the Maloti-Drakensberg Range, with the aim of informing a conservation plan for the invertebrates of the Drakensberg region.
The Wildlands Conservation Trust Green Team helps young people from deprived communities to develop entrepreneurship and environmental awareness through a programme of propagating and planting indigenous trees and clearing invasive plants from their local area. The team members who joined this project were from Richard’s Bay, South Africa and had limited opportunity to visit a wilderness or see wild animals before, so this was an eye-opening experience for them.
The Green Team learned about the important role which invertebrates play in all ecosystems, and how to collect and process specimens for scientific studies. The experience was a great confidence builder as the participants learned new skills and discussed environmental issues with their colleagues. Dr. Hamer noted that even ‘the driver who dropped the team off commented on the change in confidence and team spirit when he returned to collect the team at the end of the expedition.’
They also took part in workshops on Environmental Management and on Careers. The latter workshop was especially useful in helping the Green Team to define their goals and work out a plan of how these might be achieved.
The data collected by the team was added to that gathered by previous expeditions, and as a result the scientists now have a large enough sample to complete their study of this area. Their findings will feed directly into the conservation management of the region.
Dr Hamer said, “The team spirit of the group was remarkable… There was a constant spirit of enthusiasm and happiness in the team, which was really motivating for us [the project staff].”
On the final day of the project, the Green Team put together a presentation about their experiences in the Drakensberg and the learnings they took away with them.
View the presentation here.
Find out more about the Wildlands Conservation Trust: http://www.wildlands.co.za/home.aspx
This team was funded by Rio Tinto.